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Carbon capture and reuse gain steam

US government and European firms invest in CO₂ capture projects

by Craig Bettenhausen
June 24, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 25


A tetrahedral carbon ball and stick model. The center says Carbon utilization, and the four substituents say Algae, Working fluid, Fuels & Chemicals, and Inorganic materials.
Credit: US Department of Energy
The US Department of Energy divides its work—and external funding—for CO2 reuse into four categories, as shown in this diagram from its Carbon Utilization Program.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has committed a total of $17 million in funding for 11 projects around the country that aim to turn waste CO2 into a valuable feedstock. Separately, an experimental power plant that uses supercritical CO2 gained a French utility as an investor, and two European carbon capture projects snagged new partners.

The DOE funds are part of the agency’s Carbon Utilization Program, which seeks to reduce CO and CO2 emissions by reusing industrial carbon waste streams. Research into synthesizing chemicals—including dimethyl carbonate, propionic acid, olefins, formic acid, and tetrahydrofuran—will receive around $7 million in funding. Projects centered on making carbon nanotubes, algae biomass, and concrete will get the remainder: $2 million, $6 million, and $2 million, respectively.

Most of the DOE funds will go to university researchers. Nanotube start-up SkyNano and green engineering firm Susteon will also get support. The energy research nonprofit GTI is getting money for work on dimethyl carbonate.

GTI also won investment for another way to make good use of CO2. The French energy company Engie has joined GTI’s effort to develop power plants that use supercritical CO2 as a working fluid instead of water and steam. GTI previously received $84 million from the DOE to build a demonstration plant for the technology, which it expects to open in San Antonio in 2021.

In Scandinavia, meanwhile, details are being fleshed out on two carbon storage projects. Maersk Drilling will bring its drilling expertise to an undersea CO2 storage facility in Denmark being planned by oil and gas affiliates of Ineos and BASF. And the Northern Lights undersea carbon storage project in Norway has picked Aker Solutions to capture, liquefy, and temporarily store 400,000 metric tons of CO2 per year from a cement plant in Brevik.



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